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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  November 14, 2013 1:00pm-3:01pm EST

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if you have more -- administration like kathleen sebelius do the same, i think the american people would give them more leeway to fix the problem and get things working correctly. >> host: president obama departs the white house shortly, heading to cleveland. he will be speaking about the economy. visiting a steel manufacturing company in cleveland. then off to philadelphia for some fundraising, democratic fundraising. francis is in philadelphia on our republican line. what do you think about what the president said? >> caller: i'm curious about the reporting, using the words, the president will allow." the president can't allow anything. he is not a dictator, and the insurance commissioners and the insurance companies still have a lot to say about this, and it's obvious what this is. it's an attempt to placate the
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people who have lost their insurance until the 2014 election, and that question was not asked. that's my thoughts. >> we'll show you the news conference later in our program schedule. here's "the wall street journal" wawrnl headline. i. i white house to allow insurers to continue cancelled health plans, and they write that president obama said it to that insurers will be able to continue health insurance coverage next year for current policyholders that otherwise would be canceled under the any law. it is a significant policy retreat by the president, one that he hopes will quell -- that americans can keep their insurance plans. the president's chief of staff, dennis mcdonough, on capitol hill meeting with the house and senate and talking about the changes the president is proposing. let's go to river city -- bear
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river city, utah. go ahead. make sure -- hi there make shoo sure you mute your television or radio and then go hate with your -- go ahead with your comments. >> caller: thank you for taking my call. it's been years in the making to have this opportunity, and just to be able to comment on this. i wanted to actually agree that what the president said, that it has been difficult to implement different administrative kind of varieties of what the health care and obamacare have head to go through in order to bring it kind of around full circle to the complete understanding and how the web site needs to be working, as well as just the understanding that sometimes it takes a little bit of difficult dito get things right after all, and so i just wanted to thank
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hem very much for apologizing to the american people and i've had a number of health issues and have not had insurance, and being turned away is very difficult, and i wanted to thank you for acknowledging that. >> host: a couple more minutes of your calls and reactions to the president's speech. we'll show you comments from senate floor. the senate back in just over an hour, 2:15 eastern to continue work on their compounding pharmacies bill. let's hear from palm beach gardens, vincent, republican line. >> caller: i missed the speech but i have a comment about obamacare. i am republican-leaning but i did vote for obama the last couple of elections. my big point is, why are republicans getting in the way of obamacare? if it fails, and fails miserably, does that not equal votes for republicans in the
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white house? for the senate, congress? the republicans could never have such a boon -- no -- could equal the failure of obamacare. >> host: take it to the 2014 elections. you say you lean republican. would that's make you more likely to vote republican in the congressional election? >> caller: um, you know what, i'm on sentence, especially down here in south florida. some of the republicans act like democrats and democrats act like republicans. charlie crist, for example. you in the over in -- >> host: who is running for governor, or will run,. >> exactly. i think he was two-term governor. my point is obamacare fails-that's a huge plus for republicans, don't you think? why are they getting in the way. conversely, if it succeeds is
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that what they're really worried about? i think my views are a lot more liberal, democratic. i have a six and a three-year-old now, and we have been without insurance, both my wife and i are white collar professionals and both lost our jobs and 2008 and had the cobra, and my views have kind of shifted to the middle toward liberal, but i just think there's no amount of spin if own kaz fails that republicans can see such an uplift. cop versely, are they scared it will actually succeed? graphics on twitter. this is doug collins from georgia, congressman. he said they need focus groups to study the obamacare site. congress has act sees to 435 focus groups called districts. come talk to us. and reaction from reporters covering the briefing, obamas
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obamasout, it will be better but there will be problems. sound quite a bit dim from zients. >> the national journal says buying health insurance dwell not be like buying a song on itune, the president said. homer is in cleveland, texas, on the independent line. >> caller: yes, sir. i just wanted to comment that i think most americans want health care. the healthcare system was broken. people with preexisting conditions couldn't get healthcare. so, i think really the democrats pushed this law through without the rest of the congress basically involved. it needs to be redrawn and health care would probably be good for america but shouldn't be forced on americans, and we should good back to the drawing board, fix the problems in this
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obamacare, and make it work for all americans, and not make people lose their health care and be forced to accept something they really don't want. >> host: the policy changing coming -- part of the policy announced by the president that individuals who like their healthcare plans, the ones they have had since -- certainly now in 2013, will be through at least 2014 be able to keep the plans. newport news, virginia, democratic line. darlene, hello. >> caller: hello. i just wanted to comment on the question that the reporter had with the complications with the obamacare affect his able to get anything else done like the immigration law and all that. my comment is regardless of what obamacare does, the congress will not even vote on these things that he brings up, the
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congress will not work with him so it's basically impossible for him to get anything done through the congress, regardless of how good it is. they don't even want to try it. there are people that will vote on the immigration reform. there are budgets that need to be voted on, but congress won't allow a vote on it because of the republican congress, and that's my comment. he can't get anything done anyway because they won't allow it. >> host: there will be a measure coming up tomorrow with a measure to allow people to keep their health care plans. they say to their credit, house republicans ledly chairman fred upton are planning to pass a bill that has the potential to help millions of people now in the impossible position of holding soon to expire insurance with no good options for replacement coverage. that's from the weekly standard. again, it's going to be interesting to see how that plays against the president's
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comments from earlier today. of course, where democrats in the house tomorrow will fall on the involvement jim is on the republican line. go ahead. >> caller: i'm calling in reference to his statement that he has been working very hard on his -- on all the problems and he has gotten many problems. i also think that his plans have not been well thought out. and this health care could have been worked out long before. i know in my business, i sit
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down and work out the problems before. and just because you go to harvard does not make you smart. i know a lot of people that went to harvard and some of them are very smart, some of them are not smart. >> host: all right, jim, thanks for your comments. thanks for all your comments. more later on and "wall street journal" tomorrow morning, couple of quick comments on facebook. is where we're asking for your thoughts carly says obama is bragging about 100,000 people signing up for obamacare but refuses to acknowledge the fact they had only signed up because their previous plans were cancelled like millions of others. kennel kendall responded, i signed up because i didn't have
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a previous plan. president obama is traveling today not on vacation but heading to cleveland to speak about the economy at a steel factory there. we'll have live coverage at 3:40 eastern on c-span 3. and next up, on c-span 2, speech looking at the affordable care act. >> we had the opportunity to come to the floor today to talk about what our constituents are telling us. last night i had a teletown hall meeting 25, thousand ohioans on. every one we do a poll, asking what the most important issue is, and of the teletown halls we have done, one a month, every single time it's been jobs and the economy. until last night. last night it was health care. most of the questions i got were about the healthcare coverage and people concerned about losing it. let me read a letter from one of my constituents. this is from dean. he lives in sandusky, ohio.
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he writes: ever since i lost my job in 2009, i've been purchasing my own healthcare insurance. last month i received a letter in the mail stating my plan is being cancelled due to the aca. i was told to look at plans on the exchange. which i did. and i found a comparable plan that is over twice the cost of what i have now. in addition, this is over half of my monthly pension. i simply can't afford this. i have always been a responsible, hard-working, innocent person now. do to the action office my government for the first time in my life i will not have any health insurance coverage. i'm 59 years old. i'm outraged. how can-under government do this to us? i will remember this come election time. please get rid of this insane law. this is unacceptable. to dispeople my other con sit tunes, i agree.
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it's unacceptable. we should repeal this law and replace with -- keep the promise the president made which is that the people can keep the health care they have. >> mr. president. >> senator from indiana. >> the president has publicly promised all americans, if you like your plan, you can keep it. you like your doctor, you can keep the door. the only change he said you'll see is falling cost. well, not a senior citizen from new albany -- they're not spoke supposed to be affected by this obamacare. she received a letter saying that she and her husband no longer could keep their medicare advantage plan. it was terminated. and so they found another plan, much higher costs, higher premiums, higher deductible.
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cynthia from lafayette, indiana. i'm a self-employed and purchase health care privately. i'm a single parent, with a mortgage payment and a child in high school. i was given estimates for -- my plan was canceled and i was given an estimate for a replacement plan almost double what i'm paying today. mr. president, you have not kept your promises for seniors. you have not kept your promise to single working mothers. you have not kept your promise to families. you have not kept your promise to the people that i represent. how can americans trust that this government takeover will work if you can't keep your promises to the american people? >> mr. president. >> senator from north dakota. >> in north dakota we have a lot of farmers and a lot of ranchers, and they're small business people. they're being hit very hard by
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obamacare, like other small businesses across this country. a rancher contacted us, named wayne, and he ranches there, it's an area with a lot of cowboys, a tremendous rodeo. they compete nationally and have great livestock herds there. but he writes and says, i'm not one to get too upset about things but this deal really has me mad. we got a letter other few weeks ago that said day were troping our policy. i paid my own insurance for years and years. and when i got that letter it hit me. because somebody in washington decided i was too stupid to figure it out, if my policy was right for me or not. i don't pay a lot of attention to politics, but usually what gets decided in washington doesn't slap you in the face like this law has with me, he
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says. i've gone on health healthcare.d used the estimators they direct you to. i could be going from $2,500 deductible to something $10,000 and $12,000, the way it looks to me. this is going to cost me a lot more for something i don't even want. if i could i'd like to read another short story from a couple in grand forks that got held of us on the marriage penalty that obamacare creates. she writes in, my husband and i met with the primary health insurance carrier in north dakota, and we're told that our current coverage under the guidelines of the affordable care act will cost us at least another $400 more a month, and our deductible will increase from $2,000 to $12,000.
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and because we're married, we cannot choose individual plans which would be a lower deductible. in essence, we're being punished for being married. we're looking at paying more than $1,500 a month in health care because we are only 61 years old and not eligible for medicare for another four years. $18,000 a year for health care. we were told that part of the problem is the provisions in the law, the provisions in the law require to us choose a plan that has maternity benefits. how does this make sense for seniors to be forced to buy coverage that does not apply to them? we agree that benefits shouldn't be -- should not be denied to people but it's not fair to be forced to buy coverage that doesn't even apply.
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>> mr. president. >> senator from nebraska. >> mr. president, i rise today to speak on behalf of nearly 3,000 nebraskans who have contacted my office with their concerns about obamacare. their stories are unfortunately not unique. skyrocketing premiums and cancellation of plans. they were promised they could keep. kirk from lincoln, nebraska, wrote to tell me, he has seen his blue cross blue shield premiums rise a shocking 300%. david living in omaha, is facing a potential total increase of $16,000 a year for his family's coverage. $16,000. another constituent will see hi family's deductible more than double next year. he asks, how is this the
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affordable care act? an apology now won't help the hard-working nebraskans who have lost or will soon lose their current coverage. one constituent wrote: folks shouldn't need a second mortgage to pay for obamacare. i agree. i yield the floor. >> mr. president. >> senator from wyoming. >> i get home eave weekend, talk to people. i was home this weekend and veterans day and the target store in kasper, ran into a small business owner, a small electrics company he runs, four people who work for him, former patient of mine and he said he was one of the 4 million americans he got the letter that he had lost his insurance. he said the president promised this would be easier to use that he says it would be cheaper than
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your cell phone bill. he says that's not the case. the president said if you like what you have you can keep it. clearly not the case. said, what's wrong with this? how can we fix it? i got another letter from a rancher i need too read to you. new castle, wyoming, she says we're ranchers who buy our own health insurance. we pay $650 a month with a $3,500 deductible, our max family out of pocket is 10,000 a year. we don't carry maternity insurance because we've completed our family. i'm 45 years old and i've had a hit recollect -- his stow recollect my. i called my insurance agent and he said our policy would be canceled. he told me that their policy didn't meet obama's requirement because of maternity coverage and they'd have to choose a policy from the changes.
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she doesn't need or want or ever going to use maternity coverage. she said that the insurance agents quoted her rates of, for a comparable policy, 1300 to $1,600 per month. they now paying 650. he said the insurance agent tells my they could take a bronze policy, less coverage, for $950. still $250 a month they have to pay but the out of pocket cost was higher. he said we're being forced out of a good policy, which we pay for heir hard earned money and which we choose, into a dangerous and financial health situation with less coverage and which puts my husband and i, who are proud of our sustainability on to what we consider the welfare rolls by eating a government subsidy to afford a plan we don't want or need. she said to say we're angry is an understatement. why ising this happening? why can obama force me into
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this? we feel helpless. what are we supposed to do just follow like sheep until we're either bankrupt or welfare recipients? mr. president, this not that the president of the united states promised the american people. it's not what every democrat in this body who voted for this healthcare law promised the american people. the american people deserve better. they deserve to be able to get the care they need from a doctor they choose, at lower costs. none of that has come true under this healthcare law. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. >> senator from mississippi. >> mr. president, the more my constituents learn about the administration's so-called affordable care act, the more it becomes clear that major changes should be considered. i recently heard from a constituent who learn from accessing the obama administration's enrollment web site that the plan with the lowest cost available to him has
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a $7,000 yearly deductible. with a $12,000 out of pocket maximum, and a premium of a little over $2,400 a month. nearly twice as much as he and his wife currently pay. this family is just one example of millions of americans who are suffering from sticker shock bus of the cost of insurance plans on the president's new health insurance exchanges. it is made worse for those being rejected by the plans they were told they could keep but now cannot. it's clear we need the administration to consider going back to the drawing board. we should get together, too, here in the senate, and find common ground that makes better sense for the american people.
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>> thank you. senator from south carolina. >> thank you, mr. president. for the last three years, we have herd president obama and our friends on the left promise, no guarantee, that obamacare will make health insurance more affordable. but day after day we see costs going up for hard-working families across our country. not merely the rich families or the 1%, but middle class americans. last week, i heard from natalie, a wife and mother of three in charleston, south carolina, whose health insurance costs are seeing double digit increases. mr. president, these are the faces of real people impacted by obamacare. they're not stats. they're not numbers. they don't get waivers. they're taxpayers. middle-income taxpayers.
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and obamacare is forcing many to choose between saving for college for these three little kids, and paying for health care. they shouldn't have to choose. obamacare and are words we now know are synonymous with failure. i yield the floor. >> mr. president. >> senator from arkansas. >> thank you, mr. president. i'd like to tell the story or the constituent that e-mailed me that is so representative of what thousands are going through in arkansas. this is mark from little rock. he wrote me after receiving his cancellation notice. here's what he had to say: i recently received from blue cross blue shield that my individual health insurance policy will not be renewed after 2014 due to obamacare. although i'm very happy with this policy, i'm being forced out of it after 2014.
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the alternative options under the affordable care act are not very affordable. the closest alternative plan will i increase my deductible 25% and increase pri monthly premiums 300% from $285 a month to $850 a month. mark goes on to note that his current plan is blue cross, which he describes as not a bad apple provider, and he will be required to pay for the entire cost of this new plan out of pocket. these are all very serious problems with a program and certainly mark is not alone. >> mr. president. >> senator from north carolina. >> i recently received a letter from kathleen of fletcher, north carolina. who wrote me to describe her experience with the affordable care act and the impact on her health care, and i'd like to read her letter. she said, doctor senator: i
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recently received a notice from blue encloses/blue shield of north carolina that my health insurance policy will be canceled effective january 1, 2014, because it does not meet the mandates under obamacare. my current premium is $418 a month. the replacement policy being recommended to me will cost $928 a month. a 122% increase, and i don't qualify for subsidies. i have had continuous coverage with blue cross/blue shield for many years and i like my current plan. i'm a 62-year-old woman, and will not benefit from the mandatory additions to my plan such as maternity coverage, newborn and pediatric care. in the passion having a continuous coverage provided a sense of security that my rates could not be raised based on a change in my health status. i experienced such a change in 2012 when i was diagnosed with breast cancer and went --
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underwent seven months of treatment. now my rates are more than doubling. the security is gone. not because of the change in any health but because of obamacare. when president obama was selling the affordable care act to the american people, he repeatedly promised, if you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan, period. i'm writing to you today to tell you that i do like my plan. and i want to keep it. i'm asking for fairness for myself, and for the estimated millions of other americans who have had their plan taken away by obamacare. mr. president, how do i answer kathleen's letter? i yield the floor. >> mr. president. >> senator from idaho. >> mr. president, every one of us can stan up here and tell thousands of stories. mine would come from a gentleman by the name of clint w., who is
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a small business owner, received notice he wasn't grandfathered, was being cancelled as of the first of the year. premiums went from 320 to $1,200, deductible went from 5,000 to $12,700, and can't afforded and cancelled the policy so he could save money for future medical expenses and is going to stay cancelled as long as he possibly can. you know what struck me about this? i didn't get a lot of letters from poor people. i didn't get a lot of letters or contacts from rich people. my contacts came from middle-class america, which is what this country is. we are a middle class country by and large. with a small sliver of rich people at one end and some people that are deserving of our help at the other en. but who are primarily affected by this are the middle class of america... if they're getting
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the same letters that we are, but if they are they realize that they've done something horrible. they didn't do a plan here to help disadvantaged which the republican party has always helped with. what they have done is a social experiment which is collect ivism and socialism at its worst 0. it is offer kwrus it is a failure. -- it is obvious it is a failure. the american people over 200 years built up a successful years built up a successful >> and in three years this thing has been destroyed. there's 44 days left to headache this thing work -- to make this thing work, and if this isn't done right, there's going to be a collapse come january 1st, and the american people are going to know exactly who caused it. thank you, mr. president. >> mr. president in. >> >> senator from florida. >> mr. president, one of the things that hasn't been discussed is the impact obamacare's having on medicare
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and medicare beneficiaries. obviously, being from florida we have a significant firm of medicare beneficiaries, and in particular medicare advantage which is the only program where seniors get to choose the type of coverage they want, things of that nature. my mom's a medicare advantage patient. so i wanted to read briefly if i could a letter i received from a constituent in destin, florida, which is in northwest florida, and it's a letter she received regarding her existing doctor. she also got a letter from her, one of her providers that talks about the changes that are happening. let me read you the e-mail. she sent this. here's a copy of the letter i received from white wilson medical group. sacred heart might be also affected. my medicare advantage plan was the medicare completer through aarp and united health care. i have multibe billion chronic -- multiple chronic conditions. three of my doctors are with white wilson and three are with
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sacred heart. my rheumatologist who directs my treatment including rheumatoid arthritis and the only rheumatologist in destin. i am also legally blind, so transport is difficult to arrange and expensive. of the plans available that will allow me to keep my doctors, the annual out of pocket is significantly higher as well as the co-payments and deductibles. my choice has been reduced to finding all new doctors or enrolling in a different medicare advantage plan which will cost more. i wanted the senator to be aware that medicare clients are experiencing negative consequences from aca as well. since that time, by the way, after this experience she has been able to find a plan that helps her avoid all six of her doctors including the five specialists and her primary care physician, but here's the catch. this new plan, out-of-pocket costs are going up to an expected $5,900.
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it was a tough decision for her to make. but she ultimately decided to pay more money in order to keep seeing all her doctors that have been treating for her for the pt four to six years. this is a real-life story of obamacare. it is wrong, it is unfair. it should not stand. i yield the floor. >> mr. president? >> senator from new hampshire. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i came to the floor yesterday to share so many stories that i am receiving from my constituents about them receiving cancellations for policies that they wanted to keep, higher premiums under this law. each story is very sad, and i feel badly for the people of my state and across this country who are suffering under this law. my constituents are pleading for relief. here's just one example, a small business owner who voted for president obama twice told me that her family has a household
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income of $50,000, and their total health insurance will now cost over $19,000 for the year which is more than their mortgage. and their local hospital isn't even on the exchange, because in new hampshire we only have one insurer on the exchange, and ten of our twenty-six hospitals have been excluded from that exchange. this constituent wrote to me: we are frustrated, afraid and angry beyond words. i urge a postponement of implementation of the affordable care act while those with the power look harder at the average american and come up with a better plan. life shouldn't be this hard. mr. president, citizens from across new hampshire and this country are crying out for relief. i hope the president will listen to them and call a timeout on in this law so that we can come together, and rather than what was done in this chamber --
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passing a partisan law -- come together for bipartisan health care solutions. thank you, mr. president. >> senator from kansas. >> mr. president, thank you. mr. president, it's hard to their row down the best story to -- to narrow down the best story to tell. in fact, their all terrible stories. but kansans, too, are struggling under the consequences of the passage of the affordable care act. and it bothers me so many times it's suggested that this is just a problem with implementation. but the problem is that americans and kansans are facing today really is the crux, the underlying basis for the provisions of the afford to bl care act. this is not a problem just with implementation, it's not just a computer problem, it's the theory on which the affordable care act was based. example i'd like to describe to my colleagues from the senate is from a constituent in newton, kansas, right in the center of the state. and he writes to tell me that we were notified by our health
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insurance carrier that our premiums op our small business plan were to increase 24% on our renewal date because of the coverage mandated by the affordable care act starting in 2014. as a small business owner in our late 50s, we have struggled to find affordable health care insurance for years. about two years ago, we were able to sign up for a plan offered to small businesses through a well known carrier. it's not a cadillac plan since we each had a $5,000 deductible and no coverage for maternity we didn't need, contraception we didn't need, but with it covered the things we wanted and we did need. unfortunately, the ream yum increase is -- the premium increase is going to put this plan in the unaffordable range once again. i've not yet been able to get on the few times i've tried it's either been down or locked up during access. as a business owner with employees and responsibilities, the time i have to spend messing around with a slow or
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nonresponsive web site is limited and expensive. mr. president, our constituents need help, and the affordable care act is what they need help from. i yield the floor. >> mr. president? >> senator from kentucky. >> the president promised the american people if you liked your doctor, you could keep him or her, promised if you liked your insurance, you could keep it. but he needs to tell a family why they can't. they had an individual policy they were happy with. they paid $300 a month, they're going to bed is to pay $900 a month for things they don't want and didn't choose to have. this isn't really just about health care, this is about freedom of choice. this is about whether or not you can choose what type of insurance you want. the question is, what's next? what choices will be taken from us? i'm going to be signing up for
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obamacare. i tried yesterday 15 times. i wasn't able to get beyond "create an account" because every time i pushed it, nothing happened. this is a real problem. five million people without insurance. the president said if you can keep your insurance, you should be allowed to. you can keep your doctor. something has to be done, because this family is going to have to a pay three times as much for an insurance policy they don't want. we're taking their freedom of choice away. i, for one, say enough's enough. let's get rid of this. let's give back freedom to the consumer, give back freedom to kentucky families. in kentucky ten times more families have been canceled than have actually gotten on. something has to give. mr. president, if you said we can keep our doctor, come forward and tell us why we can't keep our doctor. thank you very much.
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[inaudible conversations] >> mr. president? >> the senator from texas. >> mr. president, millions across this country are losing their health care, are losing their doctors because of obamacare. in texas this past week, the office of american statesmen reported that austin's largest provider of cancer treatment won't participate in the health insurance plans offered through the marketplace set up by the affordable care act. and, indeed, they went on to quote: obamacare looked like sunshine on the horizon, and now it's a tornado. said one austinite who has breast cancer and is being treated at texas oncology. in an upcoming issue, "texas
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medicine," a publication from the texas medical association, references a survey with by the medical group management association that says uncertainty has 40% of physician practices across the country pondering their participation in marketplace-based insurance plans. and by reducing their risk, texas oncology is passing a burden on to some already-stressed familyings, said seth winnik, whose wife is being treated by texas oncology for breast cancer. quote. it's an unwelcome burden and could seriously affect thousands of families who deal with cancer in our communities. if winnik's family is forced to pay out-of-network rates to treat his wife, the family will have to make some tough decisions. we will make the financial sacrifice necessary to purchase the best care we can afford, and we hope that is enough. but mr. winnik continued, he had
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nothing positive to say about the people who provide care at texas oncology, but he also said expanding health care coverage to people who don't have it is a noble goal. but the impact that has on those of us who do have it remains to be seen. folks in the individual market don't really know what is in store. mr. president, president obama promised the american people the you like your health care plan, you can keep it. we now know that promise wasn't true. obamacare isn't working, and it's time to start over. thank you, mr. president. >> the good senator from arizona. >> mr. president, as my colleagues said, i think all of us have heard from hundreds of our constituents in the past couple of weeks who have had their insurance policies canceled or their insurance policies have been made unaffordable by the affordable care act. i want to talk for a minute about greg and linda. they live just a couple of doors down from me. i heard from greg earlier in the
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week. greg and linda are in their late 50s, early 60s. they know at this stage in life what kind of policy they need. they need -- they know what they don't need. they had a premium of about $400 under their old policy. they paid $440, to be exact. the new land that they've been able to -- plan that they've been able to find that ma matches most closely with what they have now after their other policy was canceled would cost them just over $1,000, $1055, to be exact. how is that affordable? the president promised if you like your plan, you can keep it. if you like your doctor, you can keep it -- him or her, period. that's not been the case. the president needs to explain to greg and linda and to hundreds of house of other arizonans who are losing their health coverage how it is that he said they could keep it, and
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they now can't. i yield the floor. >> mr. president? >> the senator from utah. >> mr. president, the president of the united states promised the you like your plan -- if you like your plan, you can keep it. we now all know that that simply wasn't true, and though many of us have been saying this for years, many americans -- including many in my state -- are realizing the pain of the president's false statement. dave from utah says, my company just dropped the good insurance plan we've had for years due to obamacare. the affordable care act is costing me more money. i'm barely able to keep my family out of poverty, and now health care is going to cost me even more. please do something to change this. marcy from utah says, we own a small business in utah, and we will be forced to cancel our insurance and ourselves go on obamacare. we can start over with the new
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way to fix our health care system, but starting over doesn't necessarily have to mean starting from scratch. we should take those lessons that we've learned, and we should build around the concept of a market-driven, patient-centered health care system, one that empowers individual americans to choose tear own health insurance -- their own health insurance based on their own personal needs and based on their own preferences. thank you, mr. president. >> the senator from south carolina. >> i have two stories i'll quickly share with the body from south carolina. scott from goose creek, south carolina, i'm a college professor in columbia, south carolina, at a private university. we're up for insurance open enrollment. i'm 35 years old, vegetarian, never smoked, ridiculously low blood pressure and cholesterol. i noticed the following about my policy: my share of premiums went up by 35-40%. in addition, my actual policy
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changed. my deductibles tripled from $250 to $750. i cannot get regular monthly prescriptions at my pharmacy now. i am sure there are other changes that i have not examined close enough to notice. thomas from elgin, south carolina, after submitting his personal information on received a phone call from a mr. justin hadley, a north carolina resident, who informed him that when he signed onto, he received all of mr. and mrs. dougal's personal information. this is a famous case. 572 people have been enrolled in obamacare in the state of south carolina. mr. president, obamacare is not working, and i fear it will never work, and the best way to fix it is to repeal it and replace it with something that will work. i yield the floor. >> mr. president? >> the senator from utah. >> mr. president, i have received letters from my
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constituents from utah who are scared, angry and confused about the changes their already facing under obamacare. i've heard countless stories from people that are losing coverage and will be forced into more extensive plans thanks to the so-called affordable care act. one such story came from kathy in salt lake city. i spoke briefly about kathy here on the floor a few weeks ago. kathy wrote to tell me how she was notified by mail that her existing health care plan was no longer going to be offered. instead, she was presented with an obamacare-compliant policy that will increase her deductible from $3,000 to $5,000, increase her co-pays for doctor visits to 30% and increase her co-pays for prescription drugs as much as 50%. as a result of these changes, kathy's health care expenses will exceed her income. to quote kathy, quote: the claim that only substandard policies were canceled is a lie.
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the plan i was on was a good policybe, unquote. she does not trust the new web site and feels that there is not adequate security to protect her personal information. in her words, quote: i wouldn't touch the exchange with a 10-foot pole, unquote. she is not alone in feeling this way which spells trouble for these new health care exchanges for the president's health law. mr. president, i yield the floor. >> thank you very much. the republican time has expired. >> mr. president? >> the senator from california. >> mr. president, we have seen an array of my republican colleagues come to the floor, which is their right, and i'm glad the government's open so they have their staff to help them prepare their speeches. but i have to say this is typical of the republicans when it comes to health care. all they do is criticize, and
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not one, not one -- because i monitored the speeches -- gave one new idea of how to make sure that our citizens are protected with the insurance they have or how to insure the 48 million uninsured americans. not one. but this is the way the republican party has been for years. let's look at what happened when medicare came to the senate floor and to the house floor, medicare. medicare, which is one of the most beloved programs. 60% of republicans in the senate and 50% of house republicans voted against medicare in 1965. representative hall, a republican of missouri, said, quote: we cannot stand idly by as the nation is urged to embark on an ill-conceived venture in
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government from which the patient is certain to be the sufferer. this is typical of republicans through the the generations. every time we've tried to expand health care, they've opposed it and opposed it and tried to derail it. senator millard simpson, republican of wyoming, said: i am disturbed about the effect this legislation would have upon our economy and upon our private insurance system. that's what they said about medicare. and they read horror stories. they read horror stories about it. now, here is what the republicans aren't saying. they are saying that there is a problem with the health care law that needs to be fixed which is that people who want to keep their substandard plans are having trouble keeping their substandard plans. now, president obama's already said he's going to fix that. there's legislation to fix that.
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we'll fix it. but that's not good enough for my republican friends. they just want to tear it down just like they wanted to tear down medicare. more recently, they wanted to tear down medicare. so this isn't ancient history. let's be clear, in 1995 dick armey, the republican house majority leader, said medicare, quote: is a problem i would have no part of in a free world. this is the republican sentiment about health care being offered to our people. the same year after leading an effort to raise premiums and costs for seniors, newt gingrich said medicare was, quote: going to wither on the vine. and now we have -- [inaudible] okay? that's how out of touch the republicans are with where the people are. senate majority leader bob dole bragged in 1996, i was there
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fighting the fight, voting against medicare because we knew it wouldn't work in 1965. and now paul ryan's budget ends medicare as we know it. so let's be clear, when you see almost the entire republican caucus come down here and try to repeal the affordable care act, this is not just stemming from today or yesterday or a glitch in the web site or a problem that we had that we have to fix about people losing their substandard plans, if they want to keep them, we'll figure out a way to help them fix it. notice that they never said anything about the good that the affordable care act is doing for millions of people. because of the affordable care act, mr. president, three million young adults are now insured on their parents' plan. and yet they want to repeal the affordable care act. what's going to happen to those three million young adults?
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71 million americans are getting free preventive care like check-ups, birth control, immunizations. 17 million kids with pre-existing conditions like asthma and diabetes can no longer be denied coverage. so they want to talk about people who are having a problem, we're going to fix it, we think it's about 5% of the people, but even if it's 1%, we should fix it. now, yesterday we learned in the first month of the open enrollment period 106,000 or 1.4% of consumers are going to sign up. if you look at massachusetts during its first month -- and, mr. president, i'm sure you're aware of this being in new jersey close to massachusetts -- only 0 .3% or 123 people signed up for coverage out of the 36,000 who ultimately signed up in the first year. so let's be clear, we all wanted
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to see bigger numbers, but the affordable care act, member -- act numbers are four times better than what massachusetts did in its first month, and if you talk to the people of massachusetts, they love their health care plan. and our plan is based on their plan. by the way, a republican plan. hundreds of thousands have started the enrollment process, and i'm one of them. i've created an account, and i'm going to go shopping and buy my plan. but i'm taking my time because i have some time, til december. i'm going to discuss it with my husband. we're going to decide what's best for us, and we're going to sign up. you know, i think it was the secretary sebelius said this isn't like buying a toaster. this is a commitment for a year, and you have got to take your time. so don't come here and tear down the affordable care act without having to put anything in its place and focus on one problem
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that the president said he's going to fix. and we're going to fix it. things are going to pick up. i want to tell you the great news about california. just in the first two weeks of november, california's enrollment has doubled. our story is a really good one. there's a huge amount of interest in california. people are enrolling. we do have a good web site. that's important to. that's important. people are finding affordable care options. at the end of the day when the kinks are worked out, i believe the california experience will be repeated across the country to the benefit of all our families. so let me break down some of numbers from california. we have the largest state in the union. and we're always -- i hate to say this to my friends here -- but we're always ahead of the curve. and during the month of october, 370,000 californians began the process of signing up for private coverage or medicaid through our health insurance
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marketplace, cover california. of those, over 0,000 californians -- 30,000 californians enrolled, and over 72,000 applied for medicaid. so let me just say we are off to an excellent start in california. in october there were more than 2.4 million unique visits to covered california. in other words, this doesn't count people going back and back. unique visits. and more than 249,000 calls were made to covered california call centers, and they've got it down to just a couple of minutes of wait time. to date, more than 17,000 counselors, agents, county workers and others have been certified to offer in-person assistance to californians. but look, you've heard the horror stories from over there, one side of the story, people
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having a problem. we're going to fix the problem. let me tell you and quote to you what californians are saying. and these are all quotes. i enrolled online on monday, exclamation point. no web site troubles, exclamation point. took me about 15 minutes, exclamation point. i'll be saving $628 a month after january 1st. exclamation point. so grateful, exclamation point, unquote. very short wait on the phone -- this is another. helpful, cheerful person to talk to. this online app is very easy, thank you. and another, the insurance package i'm getting is more comprehensive and way cheaper than the one i've had for the last nine years. thank you for creating the marketplace and making the information more accessible and understandable. another, i find the new coverage provisions to be amazing compared to what was out there before. many of the plans are cheaper than anything i've seen before.
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and the one i chose has zero deductible. another, simple, straightforward and intuitive. i haven't had health insurance since 1985, so this site has made it unexpectedly easy the enroll. thank you. so what we heard from the republicans is from a group of people we're going to the help who have substandard plans, they don't meet the standards of the affordable care act. sometimes they're called junk plans. some are a little better than junk. many of them are not there when you need them. and people, i have to say, to come down here and echo that sentiment without saying the good things that have been done is outrageous. i'd ask for two more minutes. >> [inaudible] >> without objection. so we now know the history.
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we now know, because i shared with you the history of the republican party. sad to say it. but they opposed ped care went it went in -- medicare when it went in, they tried to tear it down, they still are trying to tear it down in the ryan budget. they come down here, and they talk about a problem that exists that we're going to fix. they never said the president's going the fix it. he may be on the way to fixing it in moments here. but they ignore the fact that the sign-ups are ahead of where massachusetts was at this time. so let me close. sage mccalller from -- mcallister told me she was able to get insurance for her 7-year-old daughter, leah, who was born with an autoimmune disorder. sage said before the affordable care act was passed, she applied to eight different companies to try to get insurance, but none were affordable. after the law went into effect, she was able to get insurance for leah for $8 a month.
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leah was able to get a procedure done to treat a spinal cord problem that could have resulted if paralysis. sage says that without the affordable care act, my family, and this is a quote, would be bankrupt, and leah wouldn't have gotten the health care she needs. obama saved my family from financial ruin, said another constituent, jeannie reid. so here's the deal, let's be fair. come down to the floor one after the other and give, you know, put -- shed light on one problem we're going to fix that the president said he's going to fix? be and then say you're going to repeal the whole thing? you sound just like your predecessors who said medicare, terrible idea. social security, awful idea. that's what this is about. we're going to make history here. we're going to do the right thing. we're going to fix the problems. and there will be more, because that's what happens when you are tackling this big issue. but at the end of the day, we
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will be a better nation, a healthier nation. our children will have a brighter future, and i'm just here to say i stand with those who want progress. we're not going to tear something down like they want to do and go right back to where we were before. with parents like these having to choose between feeding their families and giving their kids health care. thank you, and i yield the floor. >> mr. president? >> the senator from connecticut. >> thank you, mr. president. thank you to the senator from california for telling the stories of people in california which are not unlike the stories in connecticut, an exchange that is working. a need of people signing up way above expectations for where we originally thought the numbers would be, and i thank her as well for pointing out what is the reality, which is that over 40 times republicans in the house of representatives and in the senate have voted to repeal
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the health care reform law, and even well over the last five years using over and other again. they've offered absolutely no replacement. there was a story in one of the trade publications down here this morning saying the republicans were just going to change their strategy, that instead of piling on repeal vote after repeal vote, they were now just going the come down to the floor and use their committee chairmanships to simply criticize the law and shelve for the time being their incestuous about is effort -- incessant efforts to try to repeal the law entirely. make no mistake, that continues to be their intention. they are going to come down to the floor of the senate as they did this morning and tell a handful of anecdotes about people who are dissatisfied with the law, their true intention is to get rid of the entire law and go back to a world in which 30
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million people if this country had -- in this country had no access to insurance, that if you got sick, you'd lose your insurance, a world in which insurance companies essentially set the rules of the game to the disadvantage of providers and of patients. that's what the agenda is here, to repeal the law and go back to the status quo. which is unacceptable. the highest number of uninsured citizens in the industrialized world, the most expensive health care system by a factor of two compared to all of our g20 competitors. and i get it that there are people who are unhappy, and the president is going to make an announcement later today which is going to set a path forward to try to fix one of the issues with the law with respect to canceled policies. but let me tell you a couple other stories about what the
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reality of the old system was. kyle is today about 11 years old, but when he first came into my office, he was an 8-year-old living with hemophilia. kyle's an amazingly brave young man who inspires courage in his parents. but kyle has to get three to four injections a week in order to treat his hemophilia, and each one of those injebs costs -- injections costs $3,000. now, his plan prior to health care reform had a feature in it that most people didn't know was included in their health care plan. that was a lifetime cap on the amount of money that his health insurance company would pay for his care. now, because kyle was mounting up bills in the tens of thousands of dollars every week, his family was going to hit that cap very quickly and then be on
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the hook for those $3,000 injections that kyle needs to take three to four times a week. that was going to bankrupt kyle's family. they thank their lucky stars that we passed this health care reform law because now their insurance has to be real insurance. it protects them against their lifetime exposure of high health care costs. think about the bergers. betty and her husband had insurance for their entire life except for a two week period of time when betty's husband switched jobs, and during that two week period of time, their son got diagnosed with cancer, and because that was then a pre-existing condition, her husband's new insurance plan wouldn't cover tear son's treatment. -- their son's treatment. their story, unfortunately, can be told millions of times over across this country was the
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bergers went bankrupt. they lost their savings, their house, everything as they mounted up huge bills to pay for their son's cancer treatments just because he got diagnosed during a two week period of time in which their family had no health care insurance. that practice ends with the implementation of this health care law. no sick person can be denied insurance simply because of a pre-existing condition, simply because a diagnosis happened to happen during a small window of time in which your family didn't have insurance. be i get it that the road has been a little bumpy as we have implemented this new health care system. but it is nothing compared to the bumps that have been encountered by millions of families across this country who have been abused by a system that simply does not work. since the majority leader's on the floor, let me just close by talking about connecticut's experience. be our biggest problem -- if our biggest problem is that enough
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people who don't have insurance aren't signing up quick enough for insurance, then that's a problem that i will accept, because it's a problem we can fix. be all we're -- if all we're talking about here is just the pace at which people are going from uninsured to insured, we can fix that. we can fix that because we know the product is good. senator boxer talked about the massachusetts experience in which during the first month of their enrollment for the massachusetts exchange only .3% of the total signed up during that month. why? because people take their time. this is not an easy decision to sign up for health care. but if connecticut where -- in connecticut where we have an exchange that's been up and running in the first month do you know what our number was? we enrolled 10% of you our exped total in the first 30 days. and here's what people say about their experience with
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connecticut's exchange. one person said, this is a great resource for connecticut residents to apply for health coverage. thanks. another said thank you so much for this health care law. i haven't been insured in a decade. i am so, so thankful. another said thank you for this program. i lost my job a year ago and couldn't find anything that i could afford in health coverage before this law passed. finally another said, thank you, this law is appreciated. god bless america and thank you, president obama. the president's going to make an announcement that will paint a path forward for the relatively
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small number of americans, 4%, who get their insurance in the individual market, some of which have had their plans canceled. but the solution with respect to the timing of enrollment is not to abandon the law as is the real agenda of people on the this floor. the solution is to fix the problem so that like in connecticut more people across this country can, for the first time, have access to affordable, quality health care. thank you, mr. president, i yield the floor. >> the senator from illinois. >> mr. president, i want to thank my colleague from connecticut and my colleague there are california for coming to the floor. you see for the last hour republican senators have come to the floor and told a number of stories about individuals and the difficulties they've run into with health insurance. and i don't dispute the facts that they brought to the floor, but i do dispute their characterization of what america
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faces at this moment in time. i supported the affordable care act. i believe it was the right ting to do, i still believe it. i'll tell you right off the bat and most democrats and republicans would agree on this part, it's off to a rocky start. this web site that was supposed to be ready october 1st, we're told will be ready by november 30th. i hope it is, and the sooner the better. i'm told it's improving by the day, and that's good. americans need access to information about health insurance. and when they have that access, they can do something, for many of them, for the first time in their lives, go shopping for health insurance. you know, there are a lot of people who have never had that luxury. some have never had health insurance one day in their lives. others have been given a take it or leave it situation with a policy that may or may not be worth anything. i listened care friday to the republicans for a long -- carefully to the republicans for a long, long time. i've heard a lot of criticism, a lot of complaint. they want to defund obamacare, they want to delay affordable care act, they want to destroy it.
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they don't have an alternative. oh, we want to repair and replace it. well, let's hear your proposal. we never heard one during the course of our debate on creating this law three and a half years ago. we kept waiting for the republican plan. the honest answer is they had one, and apparently they still don't. the reason they don't is they fall back and say let the marketplace decide. well, many of us know the marketplace in health care personally. we know a marketplace that has turned away 40-50 million people who are uninsured in america. people who still get sick, still go to the hospital and whose bills are paid by everyone else. trying to stop the this reform is irresponsible. when you get into the specifics on the affordable care act, you
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never hear a republican senator come to the floor and make a case against the specifics. you know why? they can't. is there a republican senator who will come to the floor and defend the right of a health insurance company to turn down a person or a family because of a pre-existing condition? that's the situation we faced when we passed the affordable care act. is there a family in america that doesn't have someone with a pre-existing condition? most families do. my family has in the past and does now too. and pre-existing conditions can range from the very, very serious to things which are or chronic and manageable, from asthma and diabetes to cancer survivors. the list is long. the affordable care act says you cannot turn down a oar earn in america for -- a poor person in america because of a pre-existing condition. the republicans say they want to repeal that. they want to go back to the day
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where you can turn down a person because of pre-existing condition, then have the courage to come to the floor and say it. they won't. the bill also says, the law also says you can't him the lifetime -- limit the lifetime payout on a health insurance policy. there were a lot of people who thought $100,000 was a lot of money for health care physical they got into a serious situation. one diagnosis, one serious disease, one accident away from medical bills that would wipe out $100,000 in a day or two. so we put in the affordable care act there can be no upper lifetime limit when it comes to the payout under the health care insurance policy policy. the republicans say they want to repeal it. i challenge any republican senator to come to the floor and explain that one. did you know as well, mr. president, that of the family policies sold in america, 60% of the family policies did not cover maternity benefits?
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we require the coverage of maternity benefits. now, let me tell you, my wife and i are not in a situation where we're likely to ever use those personally -- [laughter] but we happen to believe that it's a good thing across america, and it's a family-friendly thing across america to make sure that policy toes cover maternity. those who talk about family values and love of family and love of babies and children, why in the world wouldn't you want to include that protection this all family policies? spread the risk across the population, but make sure every family can afford to have premium care for a healthy baby and a healthy mom when that blessed event arrives. i'm waiting for the first republican to come to the floor and say that's a bad idea too. incidentally, health insurance policies used to discriminate against certain groups, particularly women. we said that's over. you can't discriminate against women and treat them differently. you've got to be fair in the
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allocation of this risk, and you can't use gender as a basis for increasing the cost of a policy. the republicans want to repeal that. i'm waiting for the first republican senator to come to the floor and say health insurance policies, because of the free market, should be allowed to discriminate against women. that's a reality. the other thing we provided in the affordable care act finally, families with children coming out of college looking for a job can keep their kids on their health insurance policies to the age of 26. we don't know exactly how many are helped by this. some estimate 300,000 plus young people still on their families' policies. why is it a good thing? because a lot of young people coming out of college don't find a job right away, and some that do may not have a full-time job or with benefits. if you've ever been a mom or dad -- and i've been in that circumstance as a father where i called my daughter and i said, jennifer, do you have health
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insurance? dad, i don't need it, i'm healthy, you know? those are are things that keep you up at night. the affordable care act provides additional protection for these young americans who are just start aing out life trying to -- starting out life trying to find a job. the republicans want to repeal it. i'm waiting for the first republican senator to come to the floor and make that case. oh, we should make sure that young people in their 20s don't have health insurance. that's the result if you repeal the affordable care act. and what about senior citizens? medicare prescription part d provides prescriptions so senior citizens can stay healthy, independent and strong for as long as possible. and the problem we had, of course, was something called the doughnut hole. it meant out-of-pocket expenses seniors had to pay for those prescriptions. we are closing and filling the doughnut ole so that seniors aren't giving up their life savings in order to have the prescription drugs they need for a healthy life. they want to repeal that. they want to repeal the
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affordable care act. i'm waiting for the first republican senator to come to the floor and say seniors ought to pay more for the prescriptions today need under medicare, because that's a result of repealing the affordable care act. now, let me just also say this: life experience tells us several things. first, premiums on health insurance go up with some frequency. we're trying to slow down the rate of growth, but they've been going up for a long time. in some markets, for example, when it comes to individual policies people are buying, those have gone up rather dramatically, sometimes 15% a year for a long period of time. secondly, in that market of individuals buying health insurance, 67% of those policies are canceled every two years. so now they come to the floor and tell us stories about premiums going up and cancellations. can i remind my friends on the republican side that's been going on for a long, long time?
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now today blame every cancellation on the affordable care act. they blame every ream yum increase on the -- premium increase on the affordable care act. that's just not factual, it's not true. let me tell you some mail i've received on the subject. here's an e-mail from a constituent i'd like to read. in illinois constituent writes: as a lifelong republican, i am absolutely appalled by the extremists who have hijacked my party and am thoroughly ashamed of all the attempts to defund president obama's health care act. already my medical costs have dropped due to early provisions of the act, and if it passes, becomes law, it appears i'll save $6,000 a year on my premiums, health insurance premiums. i realize that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for the health care bill, but i want to make two comments. when the act is broken down into its component parts, polls consistently show that american people agree with the program. secondly, all i'm asking is that we give it a fair trial, give it
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a fair chance. say two years. of course it'll need tweaking and revising. but if it doesn't work, then we can repeal it after two years. quite frankly, obstructionists are a public embarrassment to those of us who grew up with a different republican party that cared about people and was not madly trying to exclude as many as possible through hateful bigotry and racism. this is too important to let it fail. i stand with the president and the democrats on this issue and hope that you'll do everything in your power to see the health care act remains in force. now take a look at what's going on out in this country. there have been senators from states that have come to the floor, and i'll use as an example the senates from the commonwealth of kentucky, both of whom have called for the repeal of the affordable care act. well, let's take a look at the numbers with a flawed -- >> we'll leave of this recorded senate session from earlier today to return live to the senate here on c-span2.
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>> people have already completed submitted applications under the new be health care law.
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mr. vitter: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. mr. vitter: thank you, madam president. madam president, i come to the floor again to try to achieve what i think is a very simple and straightforward but important objective to get a clear up-or-down vote on a pure disclosure proposal i have. this proposal would say that the elections all of us make as members of the senate and all of the house members make with regard to how our office goes to the obamacare exchange as mandated by statute or doesn't go through this end-run around of the o.p.m. rule, that that's
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simply public information. that how each office handles the situation is public information. you know, however we feel about the washington exemption from obamacare, however we feel about that debate and that exemption and that subsidy, i think it should be a no-brainer, not partisan debate, that how each of us and how each of our offices handle this election be public information. right now, it is not. a lot of members, including me, have explained what they're doing, but certainly not all have and that is not public information, and this amendment would i am proposing would simply produce full disclosure and have that be public information. i am open to any way to get a clear vote on that this calendar year, and so i am completely flexible about how that happens. this bill before us, and i'd like to certainly expedite
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consideration and passage of this bill or an amendment on the defense bill next week. that would be another possibility. or a quick debate on my freestanding bill. that would be a third possibility. none of those would take significant time in the senate. in fact, all of those would expedite senate business, including leading to the passage of the bill now on the senate floor right now today, so it would actually expedite the process and expedite consideration. so with that, madam president, i ask unanimous consent that my amendment numbered 2024 be called up, that a democratic side-by-side amendment be in order to be called up, and that those be the only amendments in order other than those currently pending, that both amendments be subject to a 60-vote affirmative threshold for adoption. i further ask that there be a total of two hours of debate equally divided on both
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amendments and that upon the use or yielding back of that time, the senate proceed to a vote on the democratic amendment followed by a vote on my amendment. following the disposition of the amendments, that the bill be read a third time and passed and the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table, with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. reid: reserving the right to object, i have made statements over the past many weeks about why i object to this. i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. mr. vitter: madam president, reclaiming the floor, again, i am open to any reasonable way to get a simple vote on a pure disclosure provision any time this calendar year, so in that spirit, i have an alternative. i would ask unanimous consent that all remaining time on the motion to proceed to h.r. 3204, the compounding bill, be yielded
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back, that the senate proceed to h.r. 3204, that the bill be read a third time and passed right now, and the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. i further ask that the senate then proceed to the consideration of s. 1197, the defense authorization bill, that my amendment which is at the desk be called up and that a democratic side-by-side amendment be in order to be called up, that notwithstanding rule 22, those amendments remain in order and that both amendments be subject to a 60-vote affirmative threshold for adoption. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. reid: madam president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: reserving the right to object, the senator from louisiana has been holding things up in the senate for weeks, but he is -- for weeks. what he is now asking of the senate is every other senator take second fiddle to him. i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard.
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mr. vitter: madam president, again, i'm open to any reasonable path forward that would produce this one simple, straightforward vote on pure disclosure, information that i think should clearly be public information, and so as a third alternative, i ask unanimous consent that the homeland security and government affairs committee be discharged from further consideration of s. 1629 and the senate proceed to its immediate consideration. i further ask consent that there be 60 minutes of debate divided in the usual form and that upon the use or yielding back of time, the bill be read a third time and the senate proceed to a vote on passage of the bill, and that a 60-affirmative vote threshold be required for passage. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. reid: i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. mr. vitter: madam president, in reclaiming the floor and wrapping up, again -- and i continue to find that very unfortunate and quite frankly
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really unreasonable. we made, each of us as members of the senate, an important election about how to handle this obamacare exemption issue, and some folks have classified a good part of their staff as not official staff. magic wand and somehow they work here, they get a paycheck, they are on government property, they do official business but they are not foist staff. this is a charade. at a minimum, i think the public should know how each office and each member is handling that situation. that's the only thing my disclosure proposals, which i have been asking for a vote on, would require, and that's the only thing i'm asking for a vote on this calendar year, so i think offering these three unanimous consent routes to that is very reasonable and would also expedite consideration of many other matters, including
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the bill on the senate right now. so it's unfortunate that that reasonable route forward wasn't chosen, was blocked in multiple ways, but i will certainly continue pursuing this important objective. thank you, madam president, and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. blumenthal: thank you, madam president. i ask that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blumenthal: thank you, madam president. i am here today to talk about the syria sanctions enforcement act of 2013 which i'm very proud to introduce today with bipartisan support, joined by my colleagues senators ayotte, cornyn and casey. this bill is really a comprehensive effort to update our existing system of sanctions and to reflect the reality that
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president bashar al-assad and his murderous regime continue to engage in a horrible civil war against the syrian people. this bill builds on long-standing sanctions against syria begun in 2004 to deal with that government's policy supporting terrorism, continuing its occupation of lebanon, pursuing weapons of mass destruction, and missile programs and undermining the united states and international efforts to stabilize iraq. following events in syria beginning in 2011, march of 2011, a series of executive orders have been issued to address the ongoing violence and human rights abuses that have been supported and perpetrated relentlessly by the assad regime. congress has come together,
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fortunately on a bipartisan basis, to sanction many people who are committing terrible atrocities. now is the time to add to those sanctions, to enhance and enforce them and ensure that they encompass everyone who is enabling assad to continue his massacres against his own people. i've seen some of the effects of this cruel war in person. earlier this year i traveled to the zatari refugee camp in jordan with senator mccain and senator graham where i saw firsthand how the assad regime has torn families and lives apart. i returned home from that trip convinced, along with my colleagues, that the united states cannot stand idly why this war rages on and over one million syrians are displaced
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from their country. a substantial part, the estimates are 30% of its entire population. i remain convinced that the united states should take action not only with sanctions but with more effective humanitarian relief. sanctions are an effective way to cut off assad's financing and, therefore, his source of power, humanitarian relief is necessary to aid the syrian people who have become refugees in such enormous numbers, any -- even as we pursue those sanctions. most of the world has come together to denounce and isolate assad for his horrible abuses. appallingly, a few, most notably russian banks, finance assad and enable his continued atrocity. in september, senators ayotte, cornyn, shaheen and i urged the
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treasury department to sanction those russian banks that are perpetrating war in syria. they are enabling that war as well as the atrocities that it has spawned. and there is significant evidence that some russian banks, including v.t.b., v.e.b., gazprom bank have given financial cover to assad and may still be hiding his assets. this bill, the syria sanctions enforcement act, would ensure that those actors do not go unpunished. it would sanction financial institutions doing business with assad and his senior officials, and it would also provide for a full accounting of all assad's assets. if assad is hiding money in russian banks or elsewhere, we need to know where that money is
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because it rightly belongs to the people of syria, not to its murderous dictator. but our actions against assad must be wider in scope than simply the financial sector. and, therefore, the syria sanctions enforcement act looks at all the perpetrators of horrific violence who empower assad and it creates sanctions against them. this bill codifies existing executive orders that sanctioned senior syrian officials and people who sell or invest in the syrian government. it sanctions anyone who helps the assad government develop weapons of mass destruction or provides them with conventional weapons. they are responsible for the majority of killings in syria. they are complicit knowingly, purposefully.
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they are not merely the enablers, they are the providers of those assets used by assad against his own people. and we've seen how unscrupulous arms dealers continue to provide arms to the assad regime that enable his killing. just yesterday i was pleased to announce that the defense department will stop doing business with ross sew ross sew borne exports, the arms dealer selling to assad. the united states government purchasing helicopters to go to the afghans with the knowledge that that same russian export agency was selling weapons to assad. it was stopped but it's just one example of a company that allows assad to continue killing his own people.
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this bill also requires the president to submit a list of people responsible for human rights abuses committed against the people of syria. the president must submit a list of those culpable individuals who should be held accountable for human rights abuses committed by assad against his own people, and it will sanction anyone who has provided goods, services or support to enable human rights abuses. as you can see, this bill would do quite a few things, but there are a number of important things it will not do. it will not prevent the united states from supporting the moderates who are fighting against the assad regime, and it would not jeopardize our ongoing efforts to destroy syria's chemical weapons stockpile.
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rather, it creates a strategic framework to ensure that the prolonged dismantling of chemical weapons does not serve as a cover for the international community to ignore the brutal reality of these slaughters throughout syria. it is carefully crafted to ensure that the sanctions do not target the people of syria themselves who are just trying to survive during a difficult time. and that's where humanitarian relief from this country is of such paramount importance. over the next -- over the past few months there has been a lot of debate over what the united states should or should not do in syria. in these past months the debate has focused on military force, and many have been hesitant to use such military force in syria.
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but that does not mean that the united states can or should stand idle on the sidelines as hundreds of thousands of people are dying and the war threatens to create a wider conflict in the middle east. i think we can all agree on both sides of the aisle that we should be strengthening sanctions against the human rights abusers and supporters of assad and his military that is tirelessly, relentlessly, purposefully murdering his own people. this bill is a bipartisan attempt to move forward around the common concern of helping the syrian people. in the coming days, i look forward to a debate on this bill and the way forward in syria as we consider iran's nuclear program and other important
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effects. there will be a meeting in geneva upcoming. i view this bill as a means of strengthening our government's hand as we seek peace in syria and seek to strengthen those forces in syria that seek to protect their own people. and i look forward to working with my colleagues on this important effort to ensure that the united states continues to stand up and speak out strongly on the side of the people of syria against a regime that is striving solely and single mindedly to keep itself in power at all costs; in fact, whatever the cost in the slaughter and displacement of its own people. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:


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